Since 2013, when Black Lives Matter erupted on the scene to challenge the acquittal of Florida resident George Zimmerman for killing 17-year old Trayvon Martin, images of Black Americans dying on-screen have become as constant as air. In the last week, videos pertaining to at least four instances of police violence against Black Americans have circulated online. At the same time, a Minnesota jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty for the murder of George Floyd.
The video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck while Floyd gasped for breath sparked a movement for police accountability that led to Chauvin’s conviction on all charges. But that video, which has continued to circulate, is also deeply traumatizing. Now Allissa V. Richardson, an author and journalism professor at the University of Southern California, is calling for more guardrails around publishing visual accounts of violence against Black people.
In an op-ed for Vox, she explains how the Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act of 2005 could be used to fine media companies for distributing these distressing videos. She says she believes it is necessary to stop media companies from profiting off of Black death by removing the financial incentives. Richardson spoke with Fast Company about how outlets should instead be trying to offer more nuanced coverage of Black people who die at the hands of police.